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Oakland - Tian Jin Dumplings

Had a nice lunch of decent Xiao Long Bao and fish filets in Wine Sauce at Shanghai Restaurant. Thought the bao were decent, kind of 'B' in its execution, likely frozen and steamed up. The fish filets were nicely cooked, the wine sauce was good but too thickened up.

When we walked out, we found a place that's just about to open: Tian Jin Dumplings at 989 Franklin, Suite B- only take out. They are going to be open 7 days a week, from 8 am to 6 pm. They only had the pork and chive dumplings, $6.75 for 15. This may be a very interesting place! The dumplings clearly are hand made. They had the Robot Coupe box outside their booth and they were hand rolling the dough as we walked walked by.

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  1. What style of dumplings? Dare I hope for that Tian Jin specialty, Gou Bu Li Tang Baozi?

    4 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      Illiterate in Chinese, sorry

      Menu says:
      Tianjin pork bun
      Vegetable pork bun
      Biscuits (pan-fried cake)
      Smoked egg
      Pan fried pancake fruit
      Vegetarian chive pie
      Pork cabbage pie
      Handmade pork chive dumplings
      Handmade pork cabbage dumplings


      "According to personal taste can order one day in advance, minimum order 50"

      The pork & chive and the pork & cabbage plus:

      Pork and celery dumplings
      Vegetarian San Sun dumplings
      San Sum dumplings (pork, chive, shrimp and egg)
      Beef and carrot dumplings
      Flounder and celery dumplings

      1. re: Ericruo

        Thanks for sharing the menu! Gou bu li tang baozi is a giant steamed pork bun, so perhaps the first one listed on the menu. Gou bu li means "dog won't touch".

        Here's more about this specialty:

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Somehow, I'm not surprised that Goubuli's smallish pork buns (folks in Tianjin would wolf down 6-8 buns at one go) were *upsized* to giant pork buns in the US :-D

        2. re: Ericruo

          From the name of the place, its specialty appears to be shui jiao, and that's what leads the picture display posted below.

          The buns, from their name and size,appear not to be goubuli, but the more ubiquitous niurou bao and cai rou bao, similar to what draws the crowds at Good Mong Kok in SF Chinatown.

      2. formally opens tomorrow, Tuesday, 7/23 from 8 am - 6 pm and 7 days a week at those hours thereafter. It's on the west side of Franklin St., across from Bank of America and the Pacific Renaissance Plaza.

        photos, click on "Start Slideshow" at upper right, with score:


        2 Replies
        1. re: zippo

          it's in the spot Sushi King was at.

          1. re: zippo

            It appears that Tian Jin has new hours according to a sign I saw by their window this afternoon:

            Tuesday: closed
            Wed., - Sunday: 8 am - 3 pm

            cash only

          2. It's past closing time. Did anyone try it?

            3 Replies
            1. re: Melanie Wong

              got there at 3. only pan fried pancake fruit(3.95) was left.
              -tasted and looked like a crepe wrapped around 2 you tiaos
              greasy taste from the you tiao, black sesame taste from the crepes.
              wouldn't reorder this..

              1. re: shanghaikid

                I was there at a little past 1:00, and they were already out of everything except the "Pan fried pancake fruit" which shanghaikid mentions above. This is better known as Jianbing Guozi, a common snack sold in carts in the streets of Tianjin and Beijing. See http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/820809. It wasn't the best I've had (I like the one at Everyday Beijing in San Mateo better), but my experience wasn't as negative as shanghaikid's. It didn't have the spicy sauce on it that I'm used to, and I agree that it was very heavy.

                1. re: shanghaikid

                  Thanks to you both for the jianbing report. Sounds like TJD has an auspicious first day.

              2. Tried their pork and leek dumplings today: 15 for $6.75. Really tasty, lots of leek, the wrapper is thinner than most. I think the best in this neighborhood.

                1. Anyone tried the Tianjin pork bun?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    It did not appear that the Tianjin pork bun is on the menu anymore -- unless they're just calling them "pork buns" now, in which case they look something like this:


                    (I haven't tried those yet.) The dumplings are real good.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      we tried both the Tianjin pork and pork/veg buns. the only difference was a small amount of chives with the meat in the latter. they were good, and everything tasted fresh, simple, not excessive in salt or msg. not in the same league though as our gold standard from the SGV in greater LA. they might be the best take out steamed bao in Oakland C-town, and for the price we have no motivation to go elsewhere. the same is true for the pork and leek dumplings we tried.

                      1. re: moto

                        So, the word so far is thumbs up on the dumplings and steamed buns. Thumbs down on the jianbing, at least the early version.

                        How about the smoked egg or the panfried cakes/pies/biscuits?

                    2. So far I've tried the Tianjin bun, pork/veg bun, and youtiao. The woman at the window says that they start running out of things around 10am and are usually sold out of most items by noon. It's possible to stop by early to preorder and they'll hold it for you. I've never been there early enough to get anything out of a steamer and the bao were piled into plastic containers.

                      The bun fillings are mildly flavored and not very sharp with ginger and white pepper. Salting seemed to vary between visits though.

                      Tianjin bao ($0.50) is just pork with a bit of scallion. Bigger than a goubuli.

                      Pork and vegetable bun ($0.65) is larger than the Tianjin bao and has cabbage, not chive as someone else claimed. The cabbage still had some crunch which I didn't mind.

                      Youtiao ($1?) was doughy but fine for jook when sliced and reheated. Smaller but cheaper than the takeout places.

                      The bun dough is yeast-raised and has a good chew. No sourness so I think they added some alkaline solution to the dough. It's been years since I've bothered with Shandong but from what I remember this bao is better.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: PorkButt

                        one of the traditional leavening agents for bao dough is ammonia based. if you have it in your pantry it can be used as a 'smelling salt'. doesn't leave the aftertaste that yeast sometimes does.

                        1. re: PorkButt

                          I had no problem getting dumplings at 12:15 a few days ago.

                          1. re: Pius Avocado III

                            They always have frozen dumplings that they can cook quickly but the woman said that they can only make a limited number of bao each day because of their small space.

                            1. re: PorkButt

                              I picked up some bao 5 minutes ago; there were plenty.

                              1. re: Pius Avocado III

                                They may have made more for Friday and the woman was lying about what they could make. They were out of nearly everything at 1pm on two mid-week visits.

                        2. Luke Tsai of the East Bay Express writes that the mung-bean crepe (Jianbing guozi) was simple and homey, the juiciness of the beef-and-carrot dumplings was rich without being greasy, and the pork-and-chive dumplings were fragrant with wrappers thin and delicate.


                          1. The owner apparently also makes off-menu special dumplings (beyond those listed) by request, with advance notice of course. If she's already made a big batch for the day and has extra, you don't have to buy an entire 50 dumpling order. She had some lamb-and-scallion dumplings the other day that were excellent. I think I paid $9.99 for 20.

                            1. She had Chinese chive pockets (jiu cai hezi) today. $0.99 each, Saturdays only. Not as good as fried to order, but not bad -- still warm. The filling was chives, thickish rice noodles cut short, a good amount of egg, and a few little bits of something else I wasn't sure about: Japanese-style fishcake? Artificial crab leg?

                              She was swamped and sold out of almost everything by around noon.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: abstractpoet

                                So they don't advertise this chive dish (韭菜盒子) as a vegetarian one? Probably chopped-up shrimp inside.

                                1. re: vincentlo

                                  It's not listed on the menu at all, so I'm not sure if it's vegetarian. Definitely wasn't just regular shrimp, though.

                                  1. re: vincentlo

                                    Chive pockets are not vegetarian, though the Chinese often consider them vegetarian because it's doesn't contain any kind of red meat. It does have eggs and dried shrimp inside.

                                2. Another addition to my weekly rotation. The crepes frequently sell out (I've seen people asking for them with the intensity of heroin addicts looking for their next hit), so I try to get them when I can, but a lunch of 15 little dumplings is also a satisfying option. The last time I got them, I went a little late and they ran out of their usual chili sauce, so they gave me a little packet of Tapatio instead. I <heart> Oakland.

                                  1. The dish previously in the Tianjin Dumplings menu written in english as Pan Fried Pancake Fruit (Jianbing Guozi) has been 're-branded' as Savory Tianjin Crepe. It is still a uniquely tasty, hefty, meatless street snack for a great price ($3.95).

                                    1. I walked by Tian Jin this afternoon and they had a sign posted that said that they would be closed for a few days and will reopen on Wednesday, February 12, 2014.

                                      1. This is such a great find! A lunch of 15 pork-and-chive dumplings is a bit excessive, but they were wonderfully juicy and chive-y. The owner is so very nice as well -- this will be in the regular lunch rotation.